Read Extracts from Fish Anthologies.
Fish Anthology 2015: The Pace of Change by Chris Weldon
Brendan soothed the horse by stroking under its jaw and the huge animal opened its mouth, allowing him to slide the bit in to the back of its teeth. He pulled the bridle over the ears and held firm on the reins as the horse jerked his head upwards. After a few moments it became still and then lowered its head to munch on the grass.
‘Come up,’ said Brendan gently. ‘Come up out of that.’
He rubbed the horse’s nose and leant forward to buckle the bridle. Taking the reins again he led the horse across the field towards a five bar aluminium gate. Set in a gap in the hedge, it offered a view across a narrow road and beyond to an oak lined avenue, the tree tops blurred by the Westmeath morning mist. He stopped and listened and the horse listened too, its ears moving like radars trying to pick up the direction of the sound, the sound of a motor car. It’ll be Kit Lee, thought Brendan. Kit was the only man he knew who owned a motor car, an old black one.
At that time it was the only car around those parts, not that it was around that much. Kit spent an average of two out of three days at home in bed, convinced he had a fatal illness. One illness or another, it didn’t matter so long as it was fatal. When the due date for his death would pass Kit would get up and go about as if nothing had happened, which, of course, it hadn’t. Brendan never tired of telling the story of the day when Kit stood at the counter in Briody’s shop in the village.
‘“Twenty Sweet Afton is it, Kit?” says Mrs. Briody, reaching behind her to where the cigarettes were stacked on the shelf. “Ten,” says Kit. “Ten?” says Mrs. Briody. “The doctor gave me three feckin’ days to live and there’s two of them gone by already,” says Kit. “Ten will see me out, Mrs. Briody.”’
And Brendan would look around the bar to see who was laughing and to see if there was anyone who hadn’t heard it before. Once a man had said that he had heard the same story down in Kerry but no more was said about that.
There was a name for Kit’s condition but it kept slipping Brendan’s mind. Lots of things were slipping his mind these days: names, lots of things. He’d never married; said he hadn’t time enough for himself never mind a wife.
The car went past, visible only for the second it took to pass the gate. It wasn’t Kit’s car. It was red and newer looking. Brendan had never seen it before and wondered who it could be. One of them fellahs down from Dublin, he thought. There were more cars in Dublin where they didn’t need them, of course, than anywhere out in the country.
But it wouldn’t have been Kit, in any case, because Kit had taken to his bed the morning before with his latest fatal illness. Brendan had seen Tommy McCormack, the doctor, in Mullingar later that afternoon. He had taken the bus in to look at some cattle for Mr. Hope who owned the farm where Brendan worked when he was needed. The doctor was leaning against the top rail of the cattle pen in the street where the market had been set up.
‘What’s up with him this time, Tommy?’ Brendan had asked.
‘He has the plague,’ the doctor answered
‘The plague?’ said Brendan. ‘We’re all doomed, so.’
‘I’d say we are,’ said Tommy. ‘I’ll just go in there, now, to the Bar and Grill, and take my last glass of Guinness. Will you send for the priest?’
‘I will,’ said Brendan, ‘after I’ve had a look at these heifers.’ The doctor walked across the street to the bar. As he opened the door the strains of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ emerged and mingled with lowing of the cattle and the shouts of the farmers bargaining in the market. Brendan shook his head and moved away down the street.
Kit had never married either so, there they were, two old batchelors going about together, whenever Kit was about, anyway. Brendan with his weather beaten face, lean and wiry: Kit tall and pale, his jet black toupee perched on his head ‘Like a cat on a mantelpiece,’ said Mrs. Keogh in the post office. Brendan was older than Kit. He had been drawing his pension these three years and Kit still had a year before he could draw his.
‘I’ll never get there,’ he would say. ‘I’ll never see the day.’
The only time their friendship was ever strained was that time twenty or twenty-five years before, he had lost track, when Brendan went over to England for the work. Kit’s older sister, Maggie, was living in Sheffield with her husband and Kit had written to her asking if she could find room in the house for Brendan so he could earn a bit of money on the roads over there. Maggie had written back and said she could but not for too long now, as her husband wasn’t too happy about it at all. So Brendan took the mail boat over to Holyhead and caught the train to Sheffield, changing at Crewe. Maggie had moved her two sons into one room and given Brendan the small bedroom. After he had laid his case on the bed he came downstairs to the cramped sitting room where Maggie’s husband Dermot was hunched in an armchair with his pipe and a paper.
‘Good man,’ said Brendan.
‘Mmmuhh,’ said Dermot without looking up.
Dermot was from County Cork. Stocky and short, he either said nothing or spoke so fast, so passionately and for so long that he exhausted you. Over the weeks that Brendan was there he made the effort to break the ice with Dermot but he generally got the silence or, at best, the grunts. He felt for Maggie. She was a handsome woman, a good mother, funny and warm. Any man would be glad of her but Dermot didn’t seem to have any appreciation of her at all.
One afternoon Brendan was in the kitchen with Maggie. He couldn’t get a start on the roads that week and Maggie had offered to cut his hair. There was more of it then and it was a kind of reddy-brown.
‘It’s falling in your eyes,’ said Maggie. ‘Sit down there and I’ll cut it for you.’ She leant over from behind him and placed a tea towel round his neck, tucking it into the shirt collar. He felt her softness and it stirred him.
‘I remember you leaving home,’ said Brendan.
‘That was twenty years ago.’
‘No! Twenty years?’ said Brendan
‘Will you sit still,’ said Maggie. ‘I’ll be sticking the scissors in you.’
‘It was,’ said Maggie resting her hand for a moment on Brendan’s head. ‘It was 1913, just before the war. Some bloody great idea it was to come to Sheffield.’
‘Why did you do it?’
‘Dermot had work in the steel factory.’
‘Ah, sure Jaysus, Maggie, it’s not Dermot’s fault the war broke out.’
‘I know that,’ said Maggie quietly.
There was a silence between them as Maggie clipped away with the scissors, carefully holding his ears down with her cool fingers while snipping around them.
‘I was sorry to see you leave,’ said Brendan.
‘You were not.’ Maggie laughed.
‘I was so.’
‘Why would you be sorry to see me leave?’
‘Well there wasn’t exactly a crowd of good looking girls around the village in those days.’
‘Now stop,’ said Maggie. ‘Stop now. You mustn’t be saying those things.’ But although she was behind him he could sense that she was pleased and when her fingers came to rest gently on the back of his neck he felt a tingling and he knew they rested there longer than they needed to.
Fish Anthology 2014: A Theory of Relativity by Sally Ashton
Fish Anthology 2014: Juice Baby by Freda Churches
I stand at the window of a railway carriage – Albert Einstein
Across from me on a train Albert sat facing backwards, a little table between us, his forehead pressed against the glass. His eyes flickered as if to count passing fence posts. At length he reached a small notebook from a chest pocket, placed it on the table, jotted something down. I tried not to stare, but couldn’t make out what he wrote even when I did. He smiled. May I trade seats with you for a while, my dear? What could I say? In spite of my motion sickness, I agreed. For one the train travelled a relatively straight path, plus his eyes were so kind and sad. He steadied my elbow until I was seated, took his seat, turned again to the window, again to his notes. Then I watched, as he had, the landscape recede, what I knew blurred in immeasurable distances. The sky lost light, Albert’s white head bobbed, and just before I slept a luminescent clock appeared in the sky, though now I see it was the moon itself wearing a clock face that watched us speed by, or did we too appear to be standing completely still?
She was smoking a roll-up when I walked in. Been feeling tired. Went to bed and woke up a different colour. Bright orange to be exact. At the hospital, she climbed onto the table, affronted, because there was a hole in her tights and her knickers were out of Poundstretcher.
Afterwards, we drove to the Cooperative for some messages. Under the stark fluorescent lights she seemed to glow brighter than ever, lolling against the soft drinks counter in her too-big coat, like a wee lassie.
You look like you’ve been Tango’d, I said.
Later, her colour deepened. Visitors fluttered around like moths, as she lay gulping glasses of ginger, bathed in an Irn Bru glow.
I tweaked her arm. Made from girders eh?
Every morning I wheeled her into the smoke room. Watched the spark go out of her. The hag with the fag. Waited, as the bony frame, kindling limbs, crumbled in a puff of reek. Ticked her menu card, like a waitress in a restaurant. Held a tumbler of Tizer to her lips.
You’re getting to be a right wee juice baby, I said.
Then, one day, her face clouded over. I saw a darkness creep in. But when I looked out the window, the sky was just as blue, the trees just as green. So, I swallowed the skelf in my throat. Made ready my voice.
You’re exactly the same as this Lucozade, I said, gazing into her yellow eyes.
Fish Anthology 2013 – Luscus by Maureen Boyle
Extract from winning Short Memoir –
The eyes are lined neatly in wooden trays. They are laid in grooves according to colour and there seem to be hundreds of them staring blind off velvet lining. The velvet is deep purple – as though they’ve been laid there bleeding – but that is a fantasy and the velvet may be too. It was, after all, a National Health clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital in 1966 but my memory of it is blurred and mixed with winter darkness and the sense of a bazaar. My parents have taken me first to the giant Woolworth’s store in the centre of Belfast to buy me a bright yellow rubber duck as a beacon of small light in my hands, distraction from the ordeal ahead and whether it is because this is my first remembered experience of looking out on the world with only half the light I’d had until then – all of that first trip to Belfast and to the clinic, is shrouded in the colours of the dark: of rich mahogany wood, of the hunched Victorian corridors of the children’s hospital, of shops with wooden counters and sweets in wood-cornered vats like coloured fish you had to scoop out into little brown bags for weighing; of dark polished doors and of rain.
We were there to find me an eye and the man who would do this was Mr Lennox. Apart from the trays of eyes, I remember little of that first visit but I would come to know his method very well over the next twenty years and would miss it when he finally retired. He would begin by washing his hands very thoroughly. And then he would simply sit and look at my one good eye, staring into it as if hoping to find a secret: the secret of its precise colour, of the size of the pupil, of the iris, the shades of the white, the shape of the eye and then the choosing would begin and that is where the perfectly-organised trays came into play. He would begin to scan the strange spectrum – leaving the tray of browns that had at one side a disconcerting row of pink albino eyes, and the tray of greens and go instead to blue – the colour of my eyes and of my family’s. He would gather up a range of them, like a boy lifting coloured marbles, and hold them, one at a time, not initially where my empty socket was, but at the side of the good eye, the better to do the matching. And it seemed to me that the movement of his fingers, deftly moving the first eye chosen, back into his palm and another forward between thumb and forefinger, was done like a conjuring trick – a version of the one where an uncle takes a coin from the child’s nose or its ear – this kindly uncle was going to pluck me back an eye from his magic box of them.
We are here because I have recently had an enucleation – my left eye removed entirely after an accident. The word comes from ‘nuclear’ which means ‘kernel’ – the removing of the seed from the kernel – the eye thumbed out like a Brazil nut from its shell. I’ll come to know these words too in the months and years ahead – the socket – like pocket – from which the eye has slipped, been picked; the sulcus, from the furrow of a plough, for the little groove between eyelid and eyebrow. I remember nothing of the enucleation but I do remember the day I lost my eye – an odd idea – as if I’d been careless and left it somewhere or dropped it while playing.
My parents were building an extension. It was the early sixties, when people built their own houses or did things to them and we knew about plans and permissions. The builder was from Strabane. We lived outside the village of Sion Mills, in County Tyrone, a Mill village where my mother grew up, in a house on the Melmount Road in the townland of Liggartown and my mother and father were replacing the tiny scullery, which would then become the ‘back kitchen’, with a big light kitchen that would have a massive orange formica table, around which we would all sit on high stools and a divider of shelves made of exotic bamboo for ornaments. The sink would face the road, the main road between Derry and Omagh, and its big picture window would allow my mother to look out on the world as she did her chores, to see the buses passing at their regular times and later the soldiers set up check-points on the corner and beyond to the fields, the river and the mountains.
On this day my sister, who is younger than me, is playing with me in the garden – there is a vast uncultivated meadow behind where the vegetables grow – it is a country site and too big for my father and grandfather to tend – where we like to play safaris, imagining ourselves ‘lost in the jungle’, when in fact we are hiding behind overgrown gooseberry plants and under the umbrella leaves of the wild rhubarb. But it begins to rain and so we take shelter in the garage which contains the overspill of the family house and good things to play with. In later years, though I doubt it was ever said, I always saw what happened subsequently, as carrying a moral message of obedience – always do what you are told – my mother having called us in out of the rain – meaning come in to the safety of the house. Instead we go to the garage – where we are not really supposed to play because of my father’s tools and garden weed-killers – but I love the smell of creosote and the jam jars my father screws by their lids to shelves to hold all his different nails and twine. We are playing with umbrellas in there. My parents have a print of Renoir’s ‘Les Parapluies des Cherbourg’ in our living room – its colours all the greys and blues of Parisian rain. The woman in the front of the picture though looks dry and carries an empty basket lined dark like a gaping hole. A little girl stands by with a hoop. The rain of this day is green in my mind, and rust-coloured from the gravel of the drive, as it runs down the slight slope from the garage, running down the fields in front of the house and down into the Mourne River. But we are dry inside the garage and the rain is spectacle through the open doors – like the moment in White Christmas where the barn doors are opened behind so that the scenery is suddenly real. There is an old white umbrella which I think may have been from my mother’s wedding, it has a frill and it seems sumptuous and it too is forbidden for play because of the danger of its tip. And that day also in the garage is the builder’s equipment, stored there for the weekend. There is a step-ladder. My little sister climbs it to the top. I am underneath looking directly up at her. There is a trowel – from the Old French word ‘truele’ – ‘a small tool for spreading plaster or mortar’ from the Late Latin ‘truella’ – ‘small ladle, dipper’ –‘ a stirring spoon, a ladle, a skimmer’.
It is a Saturday. I know this because my father is at a cricket match. I remember the imprint of one of my mother’s tea towels – as though it were a phantom imprint on the lost or losing retina – like the checkered cloth marks that were burned into Hiroshima victim’s skin. The tea towel, white with red stitching, is held to the eye from the moment I run into the new kitchen screaming, held by my mother, all the way to Derry in my uncle’s small, wine-coloured Mini car, my uncle who is called to take me to hospital in Altnagelvin in Derry. I think I remember the surgeons in green scrubs and the panic. I think I remember being wheeled in a high-sided cot or bed. I don’t remember pain. They remove the whole eye.
(Complete Memoir in the Fish Anthology 2013.)
Fish Anthology 2015: Saint John’s Primary School Nativity. Nineteen Years On.
by Tessa Maude
Fish Anthology 2015 – Extract from Winning Poem
The Virgin Mary lights a fag
Behind the vestry door
She’s pregnant for the fourth time
At only twenty-four.
Herod dies in Helmand
And Caspar deals in crack and
Melchior rapes Gabriel
And stabs him in the back.
The shepherds beat up Joseph
And steal his mobile phone
Miss Stevens gives up teaching
And drinks and dies alone.
The Star stands by her lamp post
And sore afraid acts tough
By bridges and in doorways
The Inn Keeper sleeps rough.
The mothers and the fathers
The chief priests and the scribes
Are gathered in the court house
Where Balthazar takes bribes.
The Heavenly Choir disbanded
And went their separate ways
Three wise men went to Wandsworth
The shepherds to The Maze.
A suicidal Jesus
Curses God then leaps
And in his stained glass window
Saint John the Baptist weeps.
The practitioners of the art of brevity and super-brevity whose work is in this book have mastered the skills and distilled and double-distilled their work like the finest whiskey.More
€12 (incl. p&p) Sunrise Sunset by Tina Pisco Surreal, sad, zany, funny, Tina Pisco’s stories are drawn from gritty experience as much as the swirling clouds of the imagination. An astute, empathetic, sometimes savage observer, she brings her characters to life. They dance themselves onto the pages, and waltz around your mind long after […]More
How do we transform personal experience of pain into literature? How do we create and then chisel away at those images of others, of loss, of suffering, of unspeakable helplessness so that they become works of art that aim for a shared humanity? The pieces selected here seem to prompt all these questions and the best of them offer some great answers.
– Carmen Bugan.
What a high standard all round – of craft, imagination and originality: and what a wide range of feeling and vision.
I was struck by how funny many of the stories are, several of them joyously so – they are madcap and eccentric and great fun. Others – despite restrained and elegant prose – managed to be devastating. All of them are the work of writers with talent.
The writing comes first, the bottom line comes last. And sandwiched between is an eye for the innovative, the inventive and the extraordinary.More
A new collection from around the globe: innovative, exciting, invigorating work from the writers and poets who will be making waves for some time to come. David Mitchell, Michael Collins, David Shields and Billy Collins selected the stories, flash fiction, memoirs and poems in this anthology.More
Reading the one page stories I was a little dazzled, and disappointed that I couldn’t give the prize to everybody. It’s such a tight format, every word must count, every punctuation mark. ‘The Long Wet Grass’ is a masterly bit of story telling … I still can’t get it out of my mind.
– Chris Stewart
The perfectly achieved story transcends the limitations of space with profundity and insight. What I look for in fiction, of whatever length, is authenticity and intensity of feeling. I demand to be moved, to be transported, to be introduced into other lives. The stories I have selected for this anthology have managed this. – Ronan Bennett, Short Story Judge.More
I sing those who are published here – they have done a very fine job. It is difficult to create from dust, which is what writers do. It is an honour to have read your work. – Colum McCannMore
The entries into this year’s Fish Short Story Prize were universally strong. From these the judges have selected winners, we believe, of exceptional virtue. – Carlo GeblerMore
I was amazed and delighted at the range and quality of these stories. Every one of them was interesting, well-written, beautifully crafted and, as a short-story must, every one of them focused my attention on that very curtailed tableau which a short-story necessarily sets before us. – Michael CollinsMore
These stories voice all that is vibrant about the form. – Gerard Donovan. Very short stories pack a poetic punch. Each of these holds its own surprise, or two. Dive into these seemingly small worlds. You’ll come up anew. – Angela Jane FountasMore
Each of the pieces here has been chosen for its excellence. They are a delightfully varied assortment. More than usual for an anthology, this is a compendium of all the different ways that fiction can succeed. I invite you to turn to ‘All the King’s Horses’. The past is here. Begin.
– Michel Faber
Literary anthologies, especially of new work, act as a kind of indicator to a society’s concerns. This Short Story collection, such a sharp and useful enterprise, goes beyond that. Its internationality demonstrates how our concerns are held in common across the globe. – Frank DelaneyMore
From the daily routine of a career in ‘Spoonface’, to the powerful, recurring image of a freezer in ‘Shadow Lives’. It was the remarkable focus on the ordinary that made these Fish short stories such a pleasure to read. – Hugo HamiltonMore
In a world where twenty screens of bullshit seem to be revolving without respite … there is nothing that can surpass the ‘explosion of art’ and its obstinate insistence on making sense of things. These dedicated scribes, as though some secret society, heroically, humbly, are espousing a noble cause.
– Pat McCabe
It’s supposed to be a short form, the good story, but it has about it a largeness I love. There is something to admire in all these tales, these strange, insistent invention. They take place in a rich and satisfying mixture of places, countries of the mind and heart. – Christopher HopeMore
There are fine stories in this new anthology, some small and intimate, some reaching out through the personal for a wider, more universal perspective, wishing to tell a story – grand, simple, complex or everyday, wishing to engage you the reader. – Kate O’RiodanMore
I feel like issuing a health warning with this Fish Anthology these stories may seriously damage your outlook – Here the writers view the world in their unique way, and have the imagination, talent, and the courage to refine it into that most surprising of all art forms the short story. – Clem Cairns.More
Every story in this book makes its own original way in the world. knowing which are the telling moments, and showing them to us. And as the narrator of the winning story casually remarks, ‘Sometimes its the small things that amaze me’ – Molly McCloskeyMore
The stories here possess the difference, the quirkiness and the spark. They follow their own road and their own ideas their own way. It is a valuable quality which makes this collection a varied one. Read it, I hope you say to yourself like I did on many occasions, ‘That’s deadly. How did they think of that?’ – Eamonn SweeneyMore
Really good short stories like these, don’t read like they were written. They read like they simply grew on the page. – Joseph O’ConnorMore
The writers in this collection can write short stories . . . their quality is the only thing they have in common. – Roddy DoyleMore
This is the first volume of short stories from Ireland’s newest publishing house. We are proud that fish has enabled 15 budding new writers be published in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing many of them in print again.More
12 Miles Out was selected by David Mitchell as the winner of the Fish Unpublished Novel Award.
A love story, thriller and historical novel; funny and sad, uplifting and enlightening.
You only know who you can’t trust. You can’t trust the law, because there’s none in New Ireland. You can’t trust the Church, because they think they’re the law. And you can’t trust the State, because they think they’re the Church And most of all, you can’t trust your friends, because you can’t remember who they were anymore.More
A memoir of urban life, chronicled through its central character, Mackey. From momentary reflections to stories about his break with childhood and adolescence, the early introduction to the Big World, the discovery of romance and then love, the powerlessness of ordinary people, the weaknesses that end in disappointment and the strengths that help them seek redemption and belonging.More
Ian Wild’s stories mix Monty Python with Hammer Horror, and the Beatles with Shakespeare, but his anarchic style and sense of humour remain very much his own in this collection of tall tales from another planet. Where else would you find vengeful organs, the inside story of Eleanor Rigby, mobile moustaches, and Vikings looting a Cork City branch of Abracababra?More